Thursday, 6 September 2012

Pet Shop Boys - Elysium - Review

Suppose you're more or less retired now
I think I read somewhere how
You've written a book or a film score
Amazing that you like, come back for more

(Your Early Stuff)

Elysium, the newest Pet Shop Boys album, is just about to be released around the world and since I've been a fan of this band for about seven years now I feel like I should give the album a review treatment here. As some of you probably know from your own experience, being a fan of someone doesn't automatically mean you love everything they do, on the contrary, sometimes you can be pretty critical to whatever new material your lovelies come up with. And if it is such an excellent band such as the Pet Shop Boys, who hasn't released a bad album in their whole career, expectations can be pretty high and the disappointments proportionately great.

I've seen Elysium being compared to Behaviour. Is it better than Behaviour, though? 
Well, it is not better than Behaviour because it's quite different from Behaviour. Comparing Behaviour to Elysium just because they are both understated non-dancy-pop Pet Shop Boys records is like comparing Madonna and Lady Gaga because they are both fierce Italian American female pop singers. Yes, people do that all the time but such comparisons are simplistic and lazy and those people who make them are idiots. But I digress.  

Elysium is a fine sophisticated electro-pop record. But it takes a while for you to warm up to. After the first listen the only song that I really loved was Memory of the Future. This song actually still remains my very favourite but with repeated listens other songs have emerged as contenders: the second single Leaving, the closing track Requiem in Denim and Leopardskin (a title which is so Rufus Wainwright-y that I can't help my brain from making this connection even though the song has nothing do with Rufus). All excellent songs with all their components in perfect harmony. And, Winner, the album's "olympic single" is also one of the album's most approachable songs (I personally like it very much).

Another song that stands out on Elysium is the co-write with 18th century composer Georg Friedrich Händel called Hold On. The choir singing hold on, there's got to be a future, hold on could bring a tear to one's eye. A hymn trying to cheer up Earthlings living in the time of economical crisis might not be very subtle but since for once the Pet Shop Boys are not even a little bit smart-ass and ironic it is a truly touching moment on the album.

And then I am left with a few songs that for me are almost there but not quite yet. Either we will click at some point or we just won't. Aforementioned Ego Music has very smart witty lyrics but its chorus is just rubbing me the wrong way (music-wise). Your Early Stuff is a case of excellent title, lyrics are witty but musically the song just never goes anywhere (even if the rhythm of the chorus is quite catchy). Face Like That is a wee bit too reminiscent of some of those tracks on the Pet Shop Boys first two albums that I tend to skip. There's nothing wrong with it but it's also not exactly remarkable. Give It A Go is cute. Invisible has a Nightlife-ish vibe - a solid song one has to be in the mood for though.

Overall I'm quite happy with Elysium - it will be a great companion for autumn's rainy afternoons and evenings. As long as Pet Shop Boys are here and keep making records 3/4 as good as this one, I'll be ecstatic. 

There actually are not that many artists that make you feel a bit smarter while you listen to their music. All sorts of music can make you happy or touch you but what about a kind that can make you feel a bit more cultural and brainy, even if for just 50 minutes? That's why we love the Pet Shop Boys and that's why we need them. They make us laugh and they make us think. And with their new album they might actually teach us something about patience as well. In the best possible way.

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